How to Make a Rabbet Cut with a Circular Saw [Step-by-Step]

How to Make a Rabbet Cut with a Circular Saw [Step-by-Step]

How to Make a Rabbet Cut with a Circular Saw [Step-by-Step]

A rabbet cut is a recess or groove cut into the edge of the wood.

While you can make a rabbet cut with different tools, it's easy to make this cut with a circular saw.

This cut is commonly used in picture frames, kitchen cabinets, and door frames.

In this guide, I show you how to do this.

Things You'll Need

  • Two Clamps
  • A Circular Saw
  • A Straight edge
  • A carpenter's pencil
  • A speed square
  • A Ruler
  • A sacrificial sheet (MDF, plywood or similar)

Step-by-Step Process to Cutting a Rabbet with a Circular Saw

In this section, I'll show you how to go about this using a circular saw with step-by-step instructions.

Begin by placing a sacrificial sheet onto the work surface.

Sacrificial sheet on a table
Sacrificial sheet on a table

Place the wood to be cut on top of the sacrificial sheet. (with the base lying flat on the sheet)

Wood on sacrificial sheet
Wood on sacrificial sheet

For making the rabbet cut, you need to cut from the top first and then from the side.

In order to cut in a straight line, you need to run the circular saw against a straight edge.

However, the wood piece is too narrow to keep a straight edge and circular saw together.

Therefore you need to keep additional scrap wood of the same height near the wood to be cut, for supporting the straight edge.

In the photo below, I've placed scrap wood near the wood to be cut.

Wood on sacrificial sheet
Wood along with supporting pieces

Next, you need to draw the cut line on the wood piece.

With the help of some masking tape, cover the area on which you will draw the cut lines.

Masking tape on wood>
Masking tape on wood

The masking tape will prevent the wood from chipping and splintering when you cut through with the circular saw.

Using a speed square/ruler and a carpenter's pencil, mark the desired dimension of the rabbet cut onto the wood at both ends.

Marking the rabbet cut dimensions on the wood at both ends
Marking the rabbet cut dimensions on the wood at both ends

Once the rabbet cut dimensions are marked, place the straight edge on the wood pieces.

Align the straight edge with the mark made in the previous step.

Using the pencil and straight edge, connect the marks by drawing a line along the straight edge length.

Drawing a line using a straight edge
Drawing a line using a straight edge

Ensure the straight edge aligns with the line drawn and clamp the straight edge down using quick grip clamps.

Clamping down using quick grip claws
Clamping down using quick grip clamps

Next, take the circular saw and place it on the straight edge for cutting.

Align the blade with the cut line.

Once everything is set, turn the circular saw on and make the cut while pressing the saw against the straight edge.

Cutting the wood along the length
Cutting the wood along the length

With that, the first cut is complete. Next, you need to make the cut from the other face to complete the rabbet cut.

Flip the wooden block so that the side perpendicular to the cut is on top.

Flipping the block
Flipping the block

Using a ruler/speed square and a carpenter's pencil, mark the width of the rabbet from the edge of the wood.

Marking the points from the edge
Marking the points from the edge

Just as before, Place the straight edge onto the block while making sure the straight edge is supported beneath using other scrap wood with the same height.

Blocks underneath the straight edge for support
Blocks underneath the straight edge for support

Align the straight edge with the mark and draw a line along with the wood.

Drawing straight line using the straight edge
Drawing straight line using the straight edge

Clamp the straight edge to the wood using two quick grip clamps

Clamping the straight edge
Clamping the straight edge

Align the blade with the cut line and plug the saw into the power chord.

Turn on the saw and cut carefully along the cut line.

Cutting along the line
cutting along the line

Remove the masking tape from either side.

Removing tape
Removing tape

Remove the excess piece that has been cut from the wood to reveal the rabbet cut.

Wood piece with rabbet cut made
Wood piece with Rabbet cut made

Finish and smoothen the edges using sandpaper.

Sand paper on the edge
Sandpaper on the edge

With that, your rabbet cut is complete.

Rabbet cut made with circular saw
Rabbet cut made with Circular saw

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Tips for Accuracy while Making a Rabbet cut with Circular Saw

  • While marking, never mark just as a point. Instead, mark it as a 'tick' mark or a 'crow's foot' mark. Doing so helps in identifying the point to be cut easily.
  • Using masking tape before drawing a mark on it can help reduce splinters and lend a more pleasing finish.
  • If you are using wet wood or treated lumber, use a blade that's appropriate for that purpose.
  • Heat generated while cutting will be excessive in dull blades, and so be on the lookout for burned marks on the cut.
  • Use a rasp to clean and smoothen the cut after sawing. Alternatively, A hand sander or sanding paper can also get the job done.
  • Make sure to cut outside of the line, so the wood piece that you intend to use has the correct dimensions.

Tips for Safety while Making a Rabbet cut with Circular Saw

  • Before making any adjustments or changing the blade, make sure the saw is unplugged.
  • If the piece completely seperates from the wood, let it fall. Never try to catch it while holding a runnning saw in your hand.
  • Never stay right behind or too close to the running blade to avoid injury in case of kickback. Kickback is extremely dangerous and must be prevented at all costs.
  • Once the saw is turned on, keep it steady but never try to force it back in case it veers off.
  • Using excessive force will create pinch points in the wood leading to damage for both the user and the saw.
  • Make sure the saw teeth are facing in direction of rotation. (Anti-clockwise direction in case of circular saw).
  • Always wear ear protection and a mask while using a circular saw.
  • Before cutting any material, especially wood, make sure there are not obstructions such as nails inside the wood.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the difference between a rabbet and a dado?

The main difference between a rabbet and a dado is that while a rabbet is a notch cut made across or along the grain, a dado is a rectangular channel cut made across the grain only. In addition, a dado cut is never made on the edge of the wood, while a rabbet cut is always made on edge.

Where are rabbet joints used?

Rabbet joints are used to recess cabinet backs into the sides or to reduce the amount of end grain visible at a corner. In addition, a rabbet joint that uses glue helps eliminate the nails that might otherwise have to be used instead.

How do you secure rabbet joints?

The rabbet is secured by using glue and is ideal for lightweight drawers and smaller woodworking projects. For bigger projects with higher load-bearing specifications, you should add reinforcements like nails or dowels to strengthen the joint.

About V Susan

Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about DIY projects and dark chocolates! Welcome to Mellowpine. We play around with beginner woodworking projects, CNC for hobbyists, and general woodworking tips.

If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com

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V Susan

Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about DIY projects and dark chocolates! Welcome to Mellowpine. We play around with beginner woodworking projects, CNC for hobbyists, and general woodworking tips.

If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com

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